Ronald Cohen

Ronald C. Cohen

Title
Professor
Department
Dept of Chemistry
Dept of Earth and Planetary Science
Phone
(510) 642-2735
Research Expertise and Interest
physical chemistry, climate, air pollution, atmospheric chemistry, environmental chemistry, analytical chemistry, ozone, nitrogen oxides, CO2, clouds
Research Description

Ronald Cohen's research aims to describe the role of chemical reactions, human activities and ecosystem functions as they affect Earth’s climate and as they relate to unhealthy levels ozone and fine particles. His research on the chemistry of organic nitrates established that these molecules are the main path for removal of atmospheric nitrogen oxides on the continents. His research using satellite measurements of nitrogen oxides has established new methods for achieving accurate interpretation of trends in urban chemistry: http://behr.cchem.berkeley.edu/. In his newest research project, BEACO2N, he is building a neighborhood scale long-term observing system for tracking CO2 and air quality: www.beacon.berkeley.edu. This project was one of three “Climate Data in Action” efforts recognized in the Obama administration’s Climate Data Initiative in summer 2014. The project is following trends in CO2 and related gases and aerosol in cities including the Bay Area, Pasadena, CA, Houston, TX, New York and beginning in 2019, Glasgow, Scotland.

In the News

November 20, 2017

Six UC Berkeley faculty elected AAAS fellows

Six scientists are among the 396 newest fellows elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for “advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”
August 22, 2014

Berkeley air-monitoring project wins White House nod

The White House has given a public nod to a ground-breaking UC Berkeley air-monitoring project and its new collaboration with a Colorado public media platform, which aims to build a citizen-science story-corps to help monitor carbon emissions in the Bay Area.

June 27, 2012

UC Berkeley chemists installing carbon dioxide sensors in Oakland

Using inexpensive detectors that can fit inside a shoebox, UC Berkeley chemists are installing carbon dioxide and other air pollution sensors in 40 sites around Oakland to explore how detailed, neighborhood-by-neighborhood information can help communities monitor greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions.

September 7, 2011

There’s something in the California air

UC scientists built and worked in towers — some as tall as 1,500 feet — as part of the largest single atmospheric research effort in the state. The data they’ve collected will guide policymakers dealing with air pollution.

In the News

November 20, 2017

Six UC Berkeley faculty elected AAAS fellows

Six scientists are among the 396 newest fellows elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for “advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”
August 22, 2014

Berkeley air-monitoring project wins White House nod

The White House has given a public nod to a ground-breaking UC Berkeley air-monitoring project and its new collaboration with a Colorado public media platform, which aims to build a citizen-science story-corps to help monitor carbon emissions in the Bay Area.

June 27, 2012

UC Berkeley chemists installing carbon dioxide sensors in Oakland

Using inexpensive detectors that can fit inside a shoebox, UC Berkeley chemists are installing carbon dioxide and other air pollution sensors in 40 sites around Oakland to explore how detailed, neighborhood-by-neighborhood information can help communities monitor greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions.

September 7, 2011

There’s something in the California air

UC scientists built and worked in towers — some as tall as 1,500 feet — as part of the largest single atmospheric research effort in the state. The data they’ve collected will guide policymakers dealing with air pollution.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
April 29, 2020
Tony Barboza
If I could wave my magic wand and we all had electric cars tomorrow, I think this is what the air would look like, says chemistry and earth and planetary sciences professor Ron Cohen, an air quality researcher, referring to the beneficial side-effect of improved air quality during the COVID-19 shutdown. He and his team are monitoring air quality, and through an analysis of satellite measurements they've found a 32% decline in levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution over the first three weeks of shelter-in-place rules in Southern California, compared to the prior three weeks. They also, however, found a 26% reduction between the same periods in 2019, suggesting that spring weather contributed to the effect. "Driving is dramatically lower," he says, "but differences in weather between this year and last still make it hard to put numbers on how much cleaner the air is because of the shelter-in-place." Expressing dismay about how the pandemic is helping his research, he says: "It's terrible to get that view by people getting sick. ... It's not at all how we would design the experiment if we had a choice."
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April 8, 2020
Tim Didion
After China began its COVID-19 quarantine, a satellite map highlighted a dramatic reduction in air pollution over the country. When chemistry and earth and planetary sciences professor Ron Cohen, an air quality researcher, saw the image, he predicted a similar effect in the Bay Area. Now the EPA has confirmed that pollution levels around San Francisco have decreased by more than one third over last year. "It's much bigger than drops of anything else we've ever looked at," Professor Cohen says. He and his team have investigated the numbers for nitrogen dioxide, one of the key pollutants, finding that its levels were roughly cut in half from the week before the shelter-in-place order to the next week. He says they'll learn a lot more as new data becomes available. It will help the researchers not only confirm pollution levels in the air, but also what its sources are. "We think we know how much comes from cars, how much from trucks, how much from industry. And all of those things suddenly changed by different amounts. So we'll be able to check," he says. Link to video.
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